Riding with the Diaspora
The air is sharp with the sound of Chinese, sweet with Spanish,
like a good sauce, and everyone is going home,
but not really; home on the bus to small apartments
but not home home, not Guangzhou or Saltillo,
Chongquing or Cartagena.
At 6:00 o’clock on a winter evening
we’re all diaspora, all a little homesick.
If you weren’t on the bus, you missed
the Chinese father and his toddler
who boarded at the day-care stop
with Italian takeout in a clamshell,
its good, garlicky smell
available for everyone to share.
You missed the way he lifted her
onto the quickly vacated bench seat
and the way her dark eyes
stared at our human faces.
John Palen has led a dual life in journalism and poetry. He worked as a reporter and editor on daily newspapers in the Midwest and taught journalism at the university level. He earned a PhD in American Studies at Michigan State University. His first publication as a poet appeared in 1969. Mayapple Press brought out his third full-length collection, Distant Music, in 2017. He lives in retirement on the Grand Prairie of Illinois.